August 2017, Simcoe, Ont. – At the end of May, I visited several urban agriculture ventures in Pomona, California, with Robert Puro of Seedstock, a Los Angeles-based social venture fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in sustainable agriculture.
July 13, 2017, Simcoe, Ont. – If you asked plant retailers to give you the most common question they get asked by consumers each spring, we’re sure “what’s new?” would be near or at the top of the list.
July 7, 2017, Leamington, Ont. – The NatureFresh™ Farms’ mobile greenhouse tour is still on schedule despite some sizzling summer heat being experienced in the U.S. Midwest.
Feb. 27, 2017 – Proven Winners® has launched an all-new flagship video as a key element of their consumer marketing campaign for 2017. Posted on the Proven Winners ColorChoice® Facebook page the video has been viewed over 700,000 times in just two weeks.Produced by Fairly Painless Advertising based in Holland, Michigan, the consumer-focused video puts the viewer directly in the shoes of someone planting a garden, inspiring them to create their own spaces using flowering shrubs.  The video helps consumers understand that Proven Winners ColorChoice flowering shrubs are unique, colourful, and easy to grow. It conveys a message of confidence, that gardening can be a fun and creative, and that every garden is a reflection of an individual’s personal style. “Our main goal for creating this new video is to build confidence and to share the message that Proven Winners varieties break the traditional paradigm that shrubs are dull, green and unmemorable,” said Tim Wood, product development and marketing manager for Proven Winners ColorChoice. “With over 270 unique shrubs in the ColorChoice line, retailers can create a customized Proven Winners program tailored for their climate and clientele.”The video features many unique shrubs including: 'Aphrodite' sweetshrub, Sonic Bloom® Pearl reblooming weigela, Lo & Behold® 'Blue Chip Jr.' dwarf butterfly bush, Let's Dance® Big Easy® reblooming hydrangea, Invincibelle® Spirit II hydrangea, Oso Easy® carefree roses, Sprinter® boxwood, Sugar Shack® buttonbush, 'Sweet Summer Love' fragrant clematis and Lavender Chiffon® rose of Sharon.ABOUT PROVEN WINNERS COLOURCHOICEProven Winners® ColorChoice®is the brand name of Spring Meadow Nursery, Inc., a market leader in flowering shrubs, potted liners, and starter plants. Located in Grand Haven, Michigan, Spring Meadow Nursery has over 500 varieties in their catalogue, including over 240 varieties marketed under the Proven Winners ColorChoice brand, including Incrediball®hydrangea, Lo & Behold® butterfly bush, Bloomerang®reblooming lilac, and ‘Sweet Summer Love’ clematis. For more information, visit and
Feb.  9, 2017, Toronto – Valentine’s Day is the perfect occasion to show your lover, family or friend just how special they are.
Jan. 12, 2017, Guelph, Ont. – As temperatures lower and nights get longer, there is nothing like a beautiful blooming plant to brighten the home.
September 2017 – Millennials are changing the way plants are sold, and the more you understand those changes the more plants you’ll sell.
July 14, 2017, Simcoe, Ont. – When organizations invite me to speak at their conferences or train their team members, we start with trends that are impacting their customer relationships. Check out these four customer service trends along with some tips for capitalizing on them to boost your business.
May 12, 2017, Montreal – Retail icon and philanthropist Aldo Bensadoun has stepped forward with a visionary gift to his alma mater, McGill University, aimed at creating new knowledge and developing leaders for the rapidly changing retail industry.
March April 2017 – Questioning whether social media and mobile marketing should be part of your plan? Consider this: the average user spends 50 minutes a day on Facebook – almost an hour! Social media is becoming part of our natural lives – we’re willing to devote a crucial hour to it, even after working 8+ hours and spending time with our families and friends.
February 2017 – The Nannup Flower and Garden Festival is held every year in the southwest of Australia during the third week of August. Last year was the first year that the festival introduced show gardens constructed by both local organizations and landscape designers to provide the consumer with new ideas and solutions.
Jan. 1, 2017, Toronto – The first garden centre in Red Deer, Alberta, Parkland Nurseries & Garden Centre is one of two winners of the 2016 Retailer of Distinction Award from the Canadian Gift Association (CanGift).
September 2017 – It’s the trade show/conference season, the chance to review the latest and greatest the industry has to offer. Or will soon be offering.
July 7, 2017, Lambton Shores, Ont. – Arie Alblas, production manager with Roelands Plant Farms Inc. since it broke ground in 2013, is transitioning into the role of account manager and crop specialist.
August 2017, Simcoe, Ont. – It’s only fitting for an editorial written on Fathers’ Day to offer timely advice to younger readers: “Hold on tight.”
June 2017 – “They” (whoever “they” are) say that the only thing that’s constant is change. We face change continually. Home, family circumstances, career, country … and businesses change. Change of crops, markets, employees, technology and eventually, if they survive long enough, ownership. Transition to a new owner is often difficult enough. Succession to a new generation within the family has particular challenges, and especially, for some reason, to a third generation.
May 2017 – This year’s Grower Day (June 21) is focusing on what we view as the top seven issues that are not just important but are essential to the long-term viability of any greenhouse operation.
May 2017 – Combine anecdotal feedback from growers mingling at industry events with results from our sixth annual Grower Survey, simmer and stir, and you’ve got a recipe for another fairly successful year (2016) in the commercial greenhouse sector.Sales were solid, or at least above average for many, and the weather last year was largely on the side of growers.Energy costs are becoming an issue, as growers tend to use lighting to extend the season and serve new markets. Electricity costs in most regions have been rising. Helping buffer those challenges is the fact natural gas prices remain at relatively low levels, and the pundits are calling for this trend to continue for some time. But cap and trade (or carbon taxes) costs are coming into play; the impact is now being felt and will be reflected, no doubt, in next year’s survey.Our survey is far from scientific, and provides only a cursory glimpse of what’s going on in the sector. (Numbers in brackets are percentages. All numbers are rounded off.)Who filled out this year’s survey? About half were wholesale growers, followed by vegetable growers (23 per cent), retail growers (20), and seven per cent were in propagation.And where are they from? Ontario represented 60 per cent of the respondents, followed by British Columbia (19), Alberta (9) and Saskatchewan (7). We also had respondents in New Brunswick (2), Nova Scotia (2), and Quebec (2).Size of operations: As in the previous five surveys, most of those taking part have smaller operations. About a third were less than 50,000 square feet, with 13 per cent between 50,000 and 100,000, and a further 13 per cent were between 500,00 and a million square feet. At 11 per cent each were those operations in the range of 100,001 to 200,000, and 201,000 to 350,000 square feet, while about nine per cent of respondents had between 350,001 and 500,000 square feet. About 11 per cent were over one million square feet.Serving which market: On the question “Who Is Your Primary Customer,” 21 per cent listed “Own Retail Shop,” followed by “Wholesale Distributor” (20), “Mass Merchandisers/Box Stores (16), “Farmers’ Markets” (13), “Independent Garden Centres” (11), “Other Growers” (nine), “Supermarkets/Grocery Stores” (seven), and “Independent Retailers/Florists” (four).What are the “Primary” crops represented in the survey? Some 27 per cent grow “Greenhouse Vegetables,” while about 22 per cent grow “Ornamental Bedding Plants” and a similar percentage grow “Flowering Potted Plants.” Rounding out the survey were “Perennials” (seven), “Herbs and Vegetables as Bedding/Container Plants” (five), “Fresh Cut Flowers” (five), “Trees” (three). Filling out the list were “Tropicals,” “Woody Ornamentals,” and “Plugs and Propagation Material.”Among “minor” crops grown were: “Herbs and Vegetables as Bedding/Container Plants” (45 per cent); “Flowering Potted Plants” (36); “Ornamental Bedding Plants” (32); “Greenhouse Vegetables” (25); “Perennials” (25); “Foliage” (19); “Plugs and Propagation Material” (19); and “Fresh Cut Flowers,” “Woody Ornamentals,” and “Trees,” all at about 11 per cent. (Respondents could select more than one “minor” crop.)Sales up or down: Last year was definitely a good year for most respondents with 23 per cent having year-over-year sales increases of more than 10 per cent, and 32 per cent recording increases of between five and 10 per cent. Thirteen per cent had sales up by less than five per cent, while 23 per cent had 2016 sales levels that were about the same as 2015. Only eight per cent had lower sales in 2016.Taking a look back three years ago, growers listed the following margins: Over 20 per cent (eight per cent); 11-19 per cent (16); five to 10 per cent (33); less than five per cent (6); no profit margin (12); and “Do Not Know” (24 per cent).Sales forecasts: Again, on the question of sales forecasts for this year, only one per cent of respondents say they’ll have lower levels in 2017. Thirty-nine per cent are eyeing a stand-pat year, while of those anticipating increases, 31 per cent are hoping for hikes of up to 10 per cent, while 29 per cent are looking at increases of over 10 per cent.Crop threats: We were also curious about pests and disease pressures in each quarter of 2016 compared to 2015, with the following feedback. Early Season of January through March: Worse in 2016 (Pests – 11 per cent, Diseases – seven ); About The Same (Pests – 70, Diseases – 76); and Not As Bad (Pests – 19, Diseases – 17). Spring (April through June): Worse in 2016 (Pests – 22 per cent, Diseases – 11); About The Same (Pests – 54, Diseases – 74); and Not As Bad (Pests – 24, Diseases – 15). Summer (July through September): Worse in 2016 (Pests – 24 per cent, Diseases – nine); About The Same (Pests – 63, Diseases – 78; and Not As Bad (Pests – 13, Diseases – 13). Autumn (October through December): Worse in 2016 (Pests – 17 per cent, Diseases – seven ); About The Same (Pests – 65, Diseases – 83); and Not As Bad (Pests – 17, Diseases – 11).   View the embedded image gallery online at: Labour: There was a slight increase in employment, with 20 per cent having increases of up to 10 per cent last year, while five per cent welcomed more than 10 per cent. Seventy per cent held staffing levels to those of 2015, while about five per cent saw decreases of less than five per cent.Off-shore workers remain an important resource for the industry, with a little more than a third of respondents (36 per cent) employing off-shore workers.Looking ahead to this year, there will be a modest gain in employment from among our respondents. Most (68 per cent) are maintaining employment levels, while 25 per cent are anticipating staffing increases of up to 10 per cent.Investing in facilities/equipment: Our respondents reported little expansion last year, with only 18 per cent citing projects of 10,000 square feet or less. Some 76 per cent did not have projects last year.On the question of “Investing in New Equipment/Technology in 2016,” about 27 per cent had nothing to report. However, there were new installations/replacements at a number of greenhouses. Twenty-three per cent invested more than  $100,000, while 14 per cent had $25,000 to $100,000 in purchases, and an additional 14 per cent spent $5,001 to $10,000. Nine per cent invested between $10,001 and $25,000, seven per cent spent $5,000 or less, and another seven per cent spent $1,000 or less.Business threats and opportunities: We asked about “Business Threats in the Coming 3-5 Years.” Leading the way was “Energy Costs,” followed by “Market/Prices.” Rounding out the top three was “Taxes/Regulations.” The other threats included “Labour Shortage,” “Currency Fluctuations,” and “Imported Competition.”On the question of  “Business Opportunities in the Coming 3-5 Years,” it was virtually a dead heat among “Non-Traditional Products,” “Buy Local Movement” and  “Organic/Green Products. All three are definitely strong contenders. Finishing a little behind the pack this year was “Export Markets.”Pricing forecasts: A good indication of market confidence are pricing forecasts. Among survey respondents, the majority are hiking prices, with only 27 per cent holding the line. Of those increasing prices, 52 per cent are making adjustments of less than five per cent, while 15 per cent are looking at hikes of between five and nine per cent and six per cent are increasing by more than 10 per cent.Thanks to all growers who participated this year, and we look forward to reconnecting next January…and hopefully to equally positive survey results.
July 2017 – Immigrants coming to Canada bring with them not only their own culture and food, but also distinct floral preferences. As Canada’s demographic makeup changes, this means new opportunities for flower growers in this country.
April 10, 2017, St. Jacobs, Ont. – There has never been more demand for making the most of your urban living space.
March 16, 2017, Toronto – Taking a stroll through the feature gardens in Canada Blooms this year, the presence of water is unmistakable.
March April 2017 – Within a five-minute drive from my home in a medium-size (90,000 residents) city in southwestern Ontario there are three major grocery retailers, a couple of specialty food shops and about 30 restaurants.
February 2017 – Growing exotic produce in greenhouses has been known since the 18th century, but growers attending the Pacific Agriculture Show (PAS) in Abbotsford, British Columbia, were told not to discount their commercial potential.
January 2017 – How do we get a realistic measurement on the “state of the industry?”
May 31, 2017, Guelph, Ont. – The Ontario government’s proposed changes to employment and labour laws could have significant impact on the province’s agri-food industry. The proposed changes were announced yesterday in response to the release of the final report from the Changing Workplaces Review.
May 29, 2017, Guelph, Ont. – Ontario Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn recently released the Changing Workplaces Review.
Over the many years that I’ve helped teams strengthen trust with their customers and co-workers, I’ve discovered that typical approaches to enhancing teamwork not only don’t work – they’re actually counter-productive. Here are three common approaches to strengthening teamwork, and why you should take a different approach to building stronger bonds within your team.
March 19, 2017, Mississauga, Ont. – Seasonal workers from five Caribbean countries and Mexico have already begun arriving on Ontario fruit and vegetable farms as a supplement to local labour for the upcoming growing season.
March April 2017 – The gap between labour demand and the domestic workforce in agriculture has doubled from 30,000 to 59,000 in the past 10 years and projections indicate that by 2025, the Canadian agri-workforce could be short workers for 114,000 jobs.
Jan. 17, 2017, Ottawa – New research suggests that Canada’s horticulture industries are at risk of becoming increasingly vulnerable to potential labour fluctuations as their dependence on foreign labour sources rises rapidly.
June 13, 2017, Chicago, IL – Thousands of produce industry executives are arriving in Chicago this week to attend the United Fresh Produce Association’s Annual FreshMKT & FreshTEC Expos and Convention (June 13-15).
March April 2017 – A pair of longtime industry volunteers have been honoured by Flowers Canada Ontario during presentations at this year’s AGM.
Jan. 19, 2017, Jordan, Ont. – John Valk has added another accolade to his already highly distinguished career in greenhouse horticulture.
Jan. 18, 2017, Jordan, Ont. – A long-time volunteer has received this year’s Outstanding Contribution to the Industry Award from Flowers Canada Ontario.
November 2016 – They’re greenhouse vegetable growers, flower growers, specialty crop specialists or plant retailers, and they’re this year’s Top 10 Under 40 award winners. While they may have different crops or businesses, they all share the same passion for plants.
Sept. 21, 2016, Stratford, Ont. – Adrian and Jodi Roelands of Roelands Plant Farms Inc. have been selected as Ontario’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2016.
Aug. 23, 2017, Vineland Station, Ont. – There’s a plant inside the greenhouse at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) that could change the tomato eating experience forever.
Aug. 21, 2017, Calgary – Nectar, the high-energy 'honey' produced by flowers, might be a brilliant distraction technique to help protect a flower's reproductive parts, according to new research.
August 2017 – Canada’s first sweet potato variety is expected for release next year. And now work is underway to ensure Canadian farmers can also access sweet potato cuttings – called slips – right here at home.
June 2017 – Ontario’s greenhouse vegetable sector is maintaining its commitment to leading edge innovation and automation.
June 2017 – I can recall in the early years of my beginning a career in which I write about all things greenhouse how fixated almost everyone here was on Europe.
April 10, 2017, Guelph, Ont. – The University of Guelph is among the top agri-food universities in the world, according to a new global ranking of universities.

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